Ask1 and Akt act synergistically to promote ROS-dependent regeneration in Drosophila

PLoS Genet. 2019 Jan 24;15(1):e1007926. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007926. eCollection 2019 Jan.


How cells communicate to initiate a regenerative response after damage has captivated scientists during the last few decades. It is known that one of the main signals emanating from injured cells is the Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), which propagate to the surrounding tissue to trigger the replacement of the missing cells. However, the link between ROS production and the activation of regenerative signaling pathways is not yet fully understood. We describe here the non-autonomous ROS sensing mechanism by which living cells launch their regenerative program. To this aim, we used Drosophila imaginal discs as a model system due to its well-characterized regenerative ability after injury or cell death. We genetically-induced cell death and found that the Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (Ask1) is essential for regenerative growth. Ask1 senses ROS both in dying and living cells, but its activation is selectively attenuated in living cells by Akt1, the core kinase component of the insulin/insulin-like growth factor pathway. Akt1 phosphorylates Ask1 in a secondary site outside the kinase domain, which attenuates its activity. This modulation of Ask1 activity results in moderate levels of JNK signaling in the living tissue, as well as in activation of p38 signaling, both pathways required to turn on the regenerative response. Our findings demonstrate a non-autonomous activation of a ROS sensing mechanism by Ask1 and Akt1 to replace the missing tissue after damage. Collectively, these results provide the basis for understanding the molecular mechanism of communication between dying and living cells that triggers regeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Communication / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Imaginal Discs / growth & development*
  • Imaginal Discs / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / genetics*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Regeneration / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Akt1 protein, Drosophila
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • ASK1 protein, Drosophila
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases